Just when you thought the Fast and Furious movies couldn't get any sillier, FURIOUS 7 comes along. Don't get me wrong: I've seen about half of the movies in the franchise (it's really not necessary to watch each one), which means I have contributed to its popularity and I hold myself accountable for that. But you know what? I enjoyed them. Oh, they are utterly ridiculous with laughably implausible action scenes, but man are they entertaining. They are literally the reason popcorn was invented.
So to describe FURIOUS 7 is to describe any other film in the franchise. You know the deal: the crew (played by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez) reunite on the highway when one of their own is threatened, launching full-on vehicular warfare. But as its star Vin Diesel has intimated in multiple interviews over the last few weeks, this latest installment has more heart than its predecessors. And I'm not just talking about the ole "we don't just race cars together, we're family" prose we've been hearing from these characters since we first met them in 2001. There is in fact a maturity in how director James Wan approached both the story and the characters. Not to say the movie is exactly sophisticated (after all, we are just talking about hot people driving fast cars for two hours), but at least the story was taken into consideration. For example, new dad Bryan (Walker) is now struggling to embrace life in minivan, while Letty (Rodriguez) is grappling between blurred memories and a promising but intimidating new future with Dom (Diesel). I don't know if that was on account of giving us something special to remember the Paul Walker, the fact that this is the last film, or that it was simply
Even the action is more advanced. Now I'm not saying that I didn't say "WHAT?!" countless times while watching many of the over-the-top scenes (you will never convince me that cars can drive out of planes thousands of feet in the sky and land safely on the road with just a parachute). But I will say that there are a handful of moments in the film, particularly the fight scenes, that gave me old school Sylvester Stallone (or even the first Expendables film) in that they are inspired, badass and downright nasty in the best way possible. It takes you back to when bad meant goood.
Of course, the addition of Jason Statham as ruthless villain Deckard Shaw ups the badassery, and gives our familiar quintet someone to play bumper cars with. But, assuming due to the premature death of Walker, Diesel is forced to step up to the plate and carry the film as lead alpha (he's actually referred to this in the movie), disrupting the more natural balance he shared with Walker. Exacerbating that issue is the fact that throughout most of the film Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, "franchise viagra") is out of commission. Thankfully each member of the cast brings their own brand of awesomeness to the film (even Bridges gets to knock someone out), so Walker's absence doesn't seem like as much of a deficit for the film.
And speaking of Walker, remember when I told you to bring tissues to the theater? You may need them for the final ten minutes or so as we reminisce over his entire F&F career (and many hair changes). It is a tasteful tribute to an actor gone too soon. In fact, I'd say FURIOUS 7 is a fitting sendoff for the franchise, not only to the many millenials who grew up with the films but the rest of us who admire them for their penchant for rebellion, diverse casts and, yes, their foolishness.
Rating: B (*** out of *****)
FURIOUS 7 is now in theaters.